TUSCALOOSA, Alabama -- It's early, of course. Very early.
But Nick Saban's early impressions on Alabama's eight early enrollees should be enough to elicit some optimism as the Crimson Tide sits eight days away from the start of spring practice.
Saban was simply briefing the media Wednesday about the progress made since Alabama ended its season with a stunning Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma when he brought up his youngest players unprompted.
"I've been really impressed with the eight freshmen that we have here," Saban said. "I think that it's a huge advantage for them to be here. But they've all sort of done a nice job in the offseason program, are all guys that look like might be guys that can compete to help the team in some kind of way, which I think is a real positive for us."
More often than not, the true freshmen who see the field under Saban are the ones who were around for spring football.
Four of Alabama's seven scholarship early enrollees last year received significant playing time. Two of the three were quarterbacks, a position in which no true freshman has played at Alabama since Saban took over in 2007.
In 2012, running back T.J. Yeldon, wide receiver Amari Cooper and Deion Belue joined the team for spring practice and went on to become starters -- or, in Yeldon's case, a player who received a starters' worth of snaps. The year before, it was Trey DePriest, Vinnie Sunseri, Quinton Dial and Jesse Williams making an immediate impact.
Six of the eight for 2014 came straight from high school while two -- defensive linemen Jarran Reed and D.J. Pettway -- are junior-college transfers. Two of the eight -- offensive tackle Cameron Robinson and cornerback Tony Brown -- are unanimous five-star recruits.
In this year's group, it's worth keeping an eye on pretty much everyone that doesn't play on the offensive line or quarterback (David Cornwell). More often than not, a player who doesn't play one of those positions and enrolls early will see the field as a true freshman at Alabama.
Alabama's opening at left tackle, coupled with Robinson's talent, might just buck the trend when it pertains to early enrollee offensive linemen.